Mercy arrived at Amazon House at an ungodly hour, and the resident goddesses and their consorts were still sleeping off their hangovers. When Diana heard the doorbell, at first she thought she was having a bad dream. She was being chased to a construction site, where the pounding in her head became the pounding of sledgehammers, and the ringing of the doorbell was the deafening noise of a power drill.

When she heard the doorbell the second time, she thought some neighborhood kids were playing a not very pleasant joke on them. She would kill the little bastards if she got her hands on them, but she wasn't going to get up to do it.

When she heard the doorbell the third time, she realized she would have to get up because obviously no one else was going to. Three's a charm. Diana proceeded to disentangle herself from Wes's limbs, and when this operation was completed, she pulled an oversized Bill the Cat T-shirt over her lanky, long-limbed nakedness and made her way to the door before it could ring a fourth time.

"Mercy?" Diana said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

"I'm leaving George," Mercy announced. She clutched the hands of Bruce and Bennie, who were in a foggy, half-asleep state of semi-shock. They were early risers, but 6:00 A.M. was early even for them.

"At this time of night?" Diana asked.

"May I come in?"

"Oh, yeah, sure," Diana said, combing her long bangs back with her fingers. "Sorry. I forgot." Groggy and hungover, she stepped slowly back from the door to let Mercy and the boys into the living room.

"I'm sorry I'm here so early, but I had to get away."

"It's okay," Diana said, but the sleep in her voice betrayed a lack of conviction. She must have heard it herself. "Come on into the kitchen and I'll make some coffee," she added with an attempt at more hospitality. Yawning, Diana got French roast coffee beans out of the freezer. "So what happened?" she asked.

"It's terrible of me to come to you like this, but I don't have anyone else," Mercy said, starting to cry.

"Hey, Mercy, it's alright. Just make sure it doesn't happen too often, okay?" Diana joked feebly. Her head ached and she wasn't fully awake, but once her brain started functioning, she realized Mercy wouldn't have come if something drastic hadn't occurred. She pulled out a chair. "Sit down," she commanded. Mercy sat, still crying, and Bennie immediately crawled into her lap and curled up there like a puppy. Diana deposited the groggy Bruce on another chair and got out the coffee grinder. This was one of those times she wished they weren't so cultured and there were ground coffee on hand.

"So, are you finally going to tell me why you got me out of bed at such a god-awful hour?" Diana asked. She pushed the button on the little white machine and set it whirring.

"I don't know if I should," Mercy replied, looking at the boys.

"After the service I'm rendering you, I think I have a right to know why," Diana said, doing her best to maintain a sense of humor in the face of disaster. The tears scared her. Mercy had been crying a lot lately, but this was obviously different. "These two are not exactly at their brightest at the moment." Bennie already had his eyes closed, and Bruce's lids were too heavy for him to keep up much longer. He slumped in the chair, his head bobbing from his shoulders.

"I don't know if I can talk about it," Mercy said, sniffling.

"What did George do?" Diana asked.

Mercy shuddered and sniffed violently. "He forced me."

Diana set the coffee grinder down with a slam and turned to face Mercy. "Son of a bitch," she said with angry emphasis. "He forced you? What do you mean--he raped you?"

"Shhhh," Mercy pleaded, looking down at her nearly sleeping boys. She nodded.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Diana said slowly, her forehead dropping into her hand. "Oh, Mercy," she said. She was awake now.


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